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Thomas-Peters's avatar

Manned Autonomous Work System

This is a work in progress, and I'd appreciate any thoughts about the design you might wish to share.

I'm back to trying to put together some semi-realistic design for near-future space flight. In this case, I'm mainly trying to tackle a couple of problems. The first is the restrictions put on by current EVA technology. There's no such thing as being able to put on your spacesuit, go out the airlock and deal with an emergency these days. A minimum of about 20 hours of slow decompression and prebreathing pure oxygen is required before anyone goes out into space. Thats because the cabin environment of the Space Station, and the Shuttle is oxygen/nitrogen at sea level pressure, while the suits operate with pure oxygen at 5 p.s.i. They do that because, with present, vintage 1980 space suits, the arms and legs become impossible to bend if the pressure is any greater.
The other problem is radiation shielding. For long stays outside, or any meaningful work beyond the Earth's ionosphere, the present suits just have inadequate radiation protection.

The potential solution is MAWS. It will have the same internal pressure as the station, or whatever long duration habitat we have in the future, because it doesn't have flexible joints. Instead it uses a couple of miniature versions of the station's robot arm. Its possible to put much better radiation shielding around MAWS, too. Probably the first exploration of asteroids or moons of Mars will be done in something like this design.
So this is the baseline look of the MAWS, as loosely worked out by NASA. Should it have a second set of heavier arms? Where would EVA equipment be attached? In general, what do you think of the idea?

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NyrathWiz's avatar
Interesting NASA paper: Benefits of a Single-Person Spacecraft for Weightless Operations…
Mentions von Braun's bottle suit, 2001 A Space Odyssey EVA pod, MAWS and Scout. But paper is about FlexCraft

And there are tons of tid-bits about such historical craft at the Cyberneticzoo, tagged with "Space-pod"…
This site:… has an article on a proposal from 1965 on 10/29/17. It's a great site by someone in spaceflight industry on forgotten dreams. Any one with an interest should give it a read.
Thomas-Peters's avatar
COOL! Thanks for the head's up!
Merlote's avatar
If you're still taking comments, I'd say at least one "latch" arm for mooring it in place during work. Probably two though for holding tight to "heavier" structures. Is this based on the Flexcraft design?
(using my wife's DA account so reply to her or to my email, btw do you do commission work?)

Solarian1's avatar
This looks like the concept depicted memorably by Paul Hudson, for NASA.
Arms look a little spindly, but maybe not too much so depending on what work it's for.
You might consider adding some additional tools on the exterior - detachable "end effectors" that could replace the grippers.
I have also thought there may be time when the "glove box" approach would work best, for maximum dexterity. In that case, one or two gloves would extend from the front of the crew compartment, which the crewman could use for up-close work when needed.
Finally, there is a recent concept for a "bottle suit" that has more worked-out detail than any I've seen before. It was done by Mike Snead, although I can't seem to find the details on the web currently. It was part of his Spacefaring American architecture. It was extensible in modular sections for longer range missions, somewhat like the old NASA concept circa 1971.
CaveGrue's avatar
Just saw this on Atomic Rockets. Very nice, especially the reasoning behind it.

Speaking of which, great line form a different page "In case of emergency, when there is no time for prebreathing, NASA helpfully directs the astronauts to gulp aspirin, so they can work in spite of the agonizing pain" I'd say mini spaceships are a much better pill for that.
Thomas-Peters's avatar
HA! Well, at least they address the problem on some level....
Yeah, I think I like this solution better!
blakeredfield's avatar
Its one of Daedalus' "wardens"!
timberfox15's avatar
wow i remeber this one its a 70`s designe right
Thomas-Peters's avatar
There was a version of the concept in the 70's, as I say, the idea keeps cropping up. The basis for this particular treatment was part of a 2003 proposal for an L1 midway station between Earth and the moon, far beyond the radiation protection of the vanAllen belts.
RobCaswell's avatar
Neat. Is this the same one your used with the orbital Leonov pic?
Thomas-Peters's avatar
This is a almost total rebuild of that model (it really wasn't up to close-ups) I had some heavy arms and other equipment modules to that version, too. This one is very basic-kinda like the base chassis before you start outfitting it for specific missions. One of the images I hope to do with this is a scene from Clarke's story "Summertime on Icarus"
karanua's avatar
This kind of thing has been around since the bonstel days but was never seriously put to a think tank. They are always looking at the ROV approach but I don't think serious thought, engineering thought that is has gone into this kind of thing, I do seem to remember a hard suit similar to a GYM diving suit being put forward by nasa at one time.
Thomas-Peters's avatar
Yep, that's a good point, karanua. The other way to get around the ultra-low pressure requirement for a suit, is to make it a hardshell, or "constant volume". If there's no crimping at the joints, you don't have to fight the pressure keeping you alive to move. Something like that will be a necessity if we're ever going to spend long periods walking the surface of Mars, or the moons of Gas Giants. (A GYM suit might be the perfect thing for Europa's ocean!)

von Braun tackled the MAWS idea with his Bottle Suit, Clarke wrote a lot about legless cylindrical work suits for zero-gee, and 2001's "Space Pods" also fit in this category. I think this is the way to go for deep space, we just, as you say, need to think it through...
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